Placenta Previa

Bleeding In The Early Stages of Pregnancy

It is not unusual for a woman to experience bleeding during pregnancy and, as alarming as it may be, it is not always a serious complication. There are various indicators, such as the point in the pregnancy when the bleeding occurs, the amount of blood lost, and whether there is accompanying pain, that help to determine the cause.

In the first trimester (the first 12 weeks of pregnancy), bleeding is quite common and can be caused by pregnancy loss or an ectopic pregnancy. Both of these conditions are common with first pregnancies. When the embryo embeds in the uterus, bleeding may occur, along with some cramping. Infection can cause bleeding as can a rare condition called gestational trophoblastic disease. This disease may be cancerous and is caused by the presence of a grape-like mass of fetal and placental tissues that develop in the uterus.

Later Stage Bleeding

When bleeding occurs in later pregnancy, after about five months, it may be due to placental abruption, when the placenta detaches from the uterus prematurely, or from placenta previa, a condition in which the placenta either is near or covers the cervical opening. As well, there are instances where the cause of the bleeding is unknown and tests may be necessary to discover the cause.

Placenta Previa - What It Is And Who Is Affected

Placenta previa happens in about one in every 200 live births. There are three types of placenta previa. In cases of total placenta previa, the placenta covers the cervix completely. Partial placenta previa, as the name implies, occurs when the placenta partially covers the cervix, and when the placenta is near the edge of the cervix, the condition is called marginal placenta previa.

While the exact cause of placenta previa is unknown, there are certain conditions with which it is associated. It can occur in women who have had uterine scarring from previous pregnancies, uterine surgeries, or caesarean deliveries or women who have fibroids or other abnormalities of the uterus. Older mothers (over the age of 35), smokers, and women who have had placenta previa in other pregnancies are also at risk.

The Seriousness Of The Condition

What makes placenta previa concerning is the risk of serious bleeding or hemorrhage. As the lower part of the uterus thins in preparation for labor and delivery, the placenta covering the cervix bleeds. The more of the placenta that covers the cervix, the greater the risk for bleeding. The most common symptom of placenta previa is vaginal bleeding that is bright red and is not accompanied by abdominal pain-especially occurring in the third trimester. However, each woman may demonstrate different symptoms and, consequently, it is important to consult a physician as soon as there is any indication of bleeding.

Diagnosis Placenta Previa

An ultrasound can indicate the location of the placenta and how much of it is covering the cervix. A more accurate diagnosis can be obtained by the use of a vaginal ultrasound as opposed to an external ultrasound. Even though an ultrasound may show a low-lying placenta in early pregnancy, it may not be a cause for concern since the placenta migrates during the course of pregnancy and it may move away from the cervix over time.

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